Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ORLANDO: Hilton Bonnet Creek

I stayed at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando for three nights while attending a conference in November and found much to recommend about it.

Exterior, Hilton Bonnet Creek
The Hilton Bonnet Creek and companion property Waldorf-Astoria are at opposite ends of a shared conference center surrounded by Disney property near the famed Walt Disney World. While its conference facilities and proximity to the theme parks no doubt draw many of its guests, and while the properties and each beautiful and well appointed, the excellent Hilton service is why I would recommend this hotel.

The grounds, common areas, and rooms are all immaculately maintained, but the people and the service they provide are what make the difference. Even though I arrived at the same time as several other parties, the front desk checked us all in quickly, bringing additional staff to the front desk to ensure that we were all taken care of promptly.

The hotel lobby features an activities desk where guests can purchase tickets to many nearby attractions, a three-acre lazy-river Florida style swimming pool, several restaurants, a championship golf club and golf course, and a spa. Business services are offered at a small on-site FedEx Office, and sundries are available at a shop featuring Disney paraphernalia.

Guest room interior
Arriving at my guest room (#1776), I found it well equipped and nicely maintained with all the modern amenities, including flat-screen TV, iron and ironing board, a robe waiting in the closet (without having to be requested!), in-room safe, and a proper workstation. Wireless Internet access is available at a charge for guests who haven’t achieved Hilton HHonors Gold or Diamond status and delivered a respectable 2 Mbps, as measured by www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ .

In keeping with the Hilton standards, virtually every staff member I passed in the hall, common areas, or our meeting space smiled and greeted me, and asked if there was anything I needed.

Guest room workstation
Being a large conference facility, it is huge and the walks between the hotel’s towers and the meeting spaces are fairly substantial, so comfortable shoes are in order if you’re attending a conference. However, the connection via the conference center means guests can walk between the Hilton and the Waldorf-Astoria without having to go outside, which is an advantage when the weather is less than ideal.

While the hotel has several dining facilities to choose from, I found the food to be a bit inconsistent.

I don’t care for buffets, breakfast or otherwise (though I have been known to bend the rules for a good Swedish smorgasbord!).. Far too often, the food has been sitting on a steam table too long and is no longer fresh and piping hot. Accordingly, when I ate breakfast in the Harvest Bistro downstairs my first morning, I chose eggs and sausage with a side of potatoes from the cooked-to-order menu.

When it came, the eggs were obviously freshly cooked but the sausages were dry and the potatoes were cold, as though those items were plated from the buffet tables. When I mentioned it to the manager, she offered to take the meal off my bill. When I declined, she offered me a two-for-one drink coupon for the restaurant’s sushi bar to use later than evening.

The items at Zeta sushi bar were quite good and, during the happy hour (5-7 for drinks; 6-7 for food items), very reasonably priced. One can make a filling meal out of $5 glasses of wine, sushi half-rolls (four pieces each) and other nibbles without breaking the bank or the expense account.

Guest bath
Lunch the next day at the Sena bar in the lobby, however, brought the second “miss.” The cheeseburger on offer came on a roll that was far too thick, to the point that the bread overwhelmed the patty. However, the patty itself was also rather bland and tasteless. The fries were the star of that show.

Dinner another evening in the Italian on-site restaurant La Luce by Donna Scala was pleasant. Several colleagues and I had a variety of dishes and not one of us was disappointed.

The food served at our events was consistently good and, while not haute cuisine, was several notches above standard conference fare.

Upon checkout, the excellent service once again came into play. When I didn’t recognize one of the charges on my bill, the desk clerk pulled the actual charge slip so I could examine it, then investigated further and quickly resolved the issue to my satisfaction.

Located about 30 minutes from Orlando International Airport (MCO), the hotel does not offer an airport shuttle. Arriving guests can choose from shared shuttle service from $21 plus gratuity, taxis, or numerous car services that charge approximately $65 for the one-way trip. If you’re traveling with your family or with colleagues, a taxi or town car can work out to be as inexpensive – as well as more convenient and faster – than a shared shuttle.

Once on site, the hotel offers free shuttles between the Disney theme parks and Downtown Disney.

Considering everything, I would definitely recommend the Hilton Bonnet Creek if your plans call for you to be in part of Orlando.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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